Henrico supervisors to consider temporary, looser rules on development plans, subdivision plats

The Henrico County government center. (BizSense file photo)

Social distancing soon may change the development plan approval process in Henrico, at least as long as mandated social distancing is in place.

The county’s board of supervisors at its meeting this evening will consider an ordinance to allow the planning director to unilaterally approve development plans and preliminary subdivision plats.

The proposed change, which is permitted by state law, is aimed at speeding up the process and limiting public hearings during the coronavirus pandemic by giving the approval power to the county planning director, in place of the board or planning commission.

That power would exist as long as the county’s state of emergency is in effect, according to the proposed ordinance language. County Manager John Vithoulkas declared the local state of emergency March 13 and the supervisors confirmed it three days later.

The proposed ordinance doesn’t apply to rezonings, provisional-use permits or special-use permits.

State code provides that when a landowner wants to subdivide land, the landowner has to run it by a locality’s planning commission or an agent designated by the locality’s governing body. Henrico normally delegates preliminary subdivision plats consideration to its planning commission, which takes up consideration of such requests once a month, when it also looks at development plans. Consideration of development plans also are governed by the same section of state law, Planning Director Joe Emerson said.

Henrico Planning Director Joe Emerson

Under the county’s proposed ordinance, the county would eliminate the planning commission meeting and public hearing that goes with it, further minimizing opportunities for the coronavirus to spread and speed up development in the county during this time.

“What this does is eliminate the second meeting of the month in light of the health situation,” Emerson said.

Normally, the supervisors would approve development plans on county-owned and county-leased facilities, as well as some additional types of properties. That action likewise would fall under the planning director’s responsibility during the emergency, according to the ordinance.

The planning commission is scheduled to consider the ordinance Tuesday afternoon, and the supervisors are scheduled to render a final verdict Tuesday evening.

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